Sunday, 16 October 2016

The curtain in our minds

In this week's collection of readings there is the distinctive parable of the Pharisee and Publican found in Luke (18.9-14) which as many others have stated is a trap for the unwary when we start to think through these two characters.  Too often we come away at the end feeling ourselves prideful as a result of our own belonging and the buzz that it gives to us in our very being. The moment we come out of our comfort and are confronted by the needs of the world around us and say 'There but for the grace of God go I.' is the moment we have fallen away from God.  This applies equally to ourselves as individuals and ourselves as communities (parishes, diocese, denominations, etc).

It is a commonality of our modern society that we are pressured into a mind set that is focused on one thing and one thing only; the need to be ahead.  Those who are portrayed as being successful are the ones that we are encouraged to emulate.  This conditioning comes early in our lives as our school system encourages and celebrates such behaviour. A culture which we cohabit as we encourage our children to achieve the best and be accounted as the best. Who wants to celebrate a failure? Although even in failure we have a tendency to want to be the 'best' by over dramatising our situation to draw attention and the sympathetic ear.  At every turn we are held up in comparison to a 'gold standard' that society creates as it imagines itself 'better' than the other.  Our gurus in society are many and diverse each catering to the whims of our desires so that we can draw a curtain behind which we can hide the reality of our neighbours and the other. We follow each one hoping that at the end of the day they will lead us into a betterment of our current lives.  The 2nd letter to Timothy underscores the danger of this as it leads us away from God (2 Tim. 4.3-4).

It is only by drawing back the curtain that we can see the reality of Christ in the world.

This view of seeing ourselves as 'better' than the other that is driven by our global society, is something that we, who have classed ourselves within the Christian faith journey, should recognise from our baptismal vows and faith formation journey.  It should be abhorrent to us. This is the selfish attitude of 'I want' that is encapsulated within the story of the eating of the Tree of Knowledge.  The attitude that continues to darken our minds by drawing that curtain across those things that are true but unwanted in our own personal lives.  It draws a curtain across to say that everything that is behind it does not add to our wants and our needs, The wants of our lives rather than the needs of others are brought in front of the curtain into our attentive minds.  We see ourselves as being epitomes of Christ like living when we peak a glimpse behind the curtain, presuming that this limited giving of ourselves to the needs and aspirations of others, is all that is required.  It is only when we recognise that we ourselves are the Pharisee rather than the Sinner in our lives that we will begin to recognise that have hidden Christ behind the curtain.  The moment we place our priority above the priority of the other is the moment that we draw the curtain across our minds hiding the Christic presence.

Jeremiah calls from the past and reminds us today of what God has stated ' I shall set my laws within them, writing it on their hearts' (Jer. 31.33b).  It is this soft voice that rises within ourselves that calls us into a future that is filled with God's promise.  A promise that is governed by love of the other, a promise that galvanises our lives into an effort of giving.  A commitment we make each week as we seek to renew ourselves and undertaking our metanoic return to the call placed upon us which we fail each day.  We are encouraged through our commitment to our faith to draw back the curtain that we have placed to reveal another that is torn in two.  Confronting us is the nakedness of God's love for the other which we are induced through the call to display in our daily lives.  We are called to commit our lives to a way of self sacrifice, of loving and giving, of walking alongside and not judging, comparing and forsaking.  A life that becomes anything we want it to be rather than a life governed by the perceptions of others.  A life committed to a recognition of God's grace in our lives and the poverty of our commitment to the call to love.  We are called to live with God's laws living in our hearts, hearts made from flesh and blood not stone and concrete.

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